This past summer, I walked into the press box at Dow Field in Chariho to meet Chris Charette. Chris was scoring the 2020 Rhode Island 12U All Star State Tournament, providing play by play on his phone, and announcing players coming up to bat, pitch counts, etc. The game on the field featured North Kingstown/Wickford Little League vs Coventry Little League – two of the biggest powerhouses in all of youth baseball here in Rhode Island. It was a much anticipated quarter finals game in the 2nd inning when I entered the press box. Chris and I spoke during the game action and then he put his hand up to quiet me and the others in the press box. “Now batting for Coventry, Leah Lapham.” After clicking off the PA system, Chris turned to me and said “This girl is the real deal. She pitched Coventry into the quarters with an amazing night on the mound last night.” And right on cue, I watched Leah Lapham rip a single and head over to first base. She would later score and was greeted enthusiastically by her coaches, teammates, and the Coventry Little League fans at the game. ‘This’ I said to myself ‘is a great story.’
I reached out to John Fretts of Moe Joe Baseball and Coventry Little League about a week after the tournament ended to ask for his help in connecting me with Leah’s parents, and hopefully Leah. After a few weeks of back and forth emails, I was able to meet, greet, and get to know Adrianne, Dave, and Leah Lapham and learn more about Leah’s baseball journey. Adrianne was gracious enough to send me a number of photos for this article. I was so impressed by the honesty and the passion for baseball from Mom, Dad, Leah, and the entire Lapham baseball family. One quick interjection before I get to the questions and answers. I reached out to a teammate of Leah’s, my nephew Jackson Hohl, and this is what he wrote me “awesome teammate. really good at hitting, pitching, fielding, whatever baseball spot she was at, she is a great player.” So, without further ado, here is Leah, Adrianne, and Dave Lapham talking baseball:
Leah, what is your earliest memory or memories of playing baseball? Picking up a bat, throwing a baseball to a friend/Mom/Dad?
I remember I had a pink glove when I started tee ball and my mom helped coach the team.
Are the Laphams an athletic family? Mom or Dad play sports growing up, HS, College, Pro?
Yes we are a very athletic family. I also play soccer and basketball for fun. My brother, Luke also plays baseball and travels a lot. My mom grew up playing 3 sports in high school and played travel fast pitch softball and got scholarship opportunities in college for softball. My dad also played sports in high school especially baseball. He used to play on a men’s softball league but now just has time to golf for fun. My mom and dad dedicate their time for me and my brother’s baseball.
At what age did you start to really enjoy the game of baseball? Is it due to your recent success or did you enjoy going to the baseball field from the start/an early age?
Baseball has always been my favorite sport. I enjoy the game and it’s fun.
How did Coventry Little League encourage you to play baseball as you aged through Tee Ball, the Minors, and then into the Majors Division?
They didn’t really encourage me. It’s something I wanted to do and I wanted to keep playing baseball.
Dave and Adrianne, as parents, did you discuss baseball vs softball vs other sports with Leah as she progressed through the CLL ranks? Or, when Spring registration opened, was it just a foregone conclusion that Leah would be signing up for baseball?
Adrianne – Baseball was always her love. She was really good at it. At the younger ages we and she felt she would have been bored in softball as it wasn’t competitive and slow pitch. If there was a conflict with another sport like soccer she always chose to go to baseball as it came first in her mind.
Leah, are you a left handed or right handed thrower? How about at the plate? Right handed batter or left handed batter?
Right handed thrower and right handed batter
On the field, where do you feel you can help your teammates the best?
I always helped my teams wherever they needed me. My coaches thought I could play anywhere as a utility player based on where others could play to help our team win games. In little league I pitched a lot, played short stop, center field, first base and even catcher. In AAU I pitched and played mostly short stop.
As a former pitcher myself, I always wanted the baseball in a big game. You recently pitched in an elimination game for Coventry in this past summer’s All Star State Tournament. What emotions were you feeling pitching in a big game? Did you get nervous or were you calm on the mound? By the way, I heard you performed EXCELLENT!!!!
I was not nervous during that game. I was focusing on what I had to do and my pitches that coach Daryl would tell me throw. I had learned a new curve ball and I was really hitting the spot. He encouraged me and always supported me and it got me pumped up to throw strikeouts.
Dave and Adrianne, are you parents that sit on the edge of your seats while Leah is on the mound? Take long walks? Pull your sweatshirt hoodie over your eyes? What do you do as parents to cope stress wise while she is out there on the mound?
Dave – I know for me I don’t get to stressed when she’s out their. I am usually trying to figure out what she is doing wrong or right that i can tell her about, not that she always listens. Its great when we’re driving to a game and Leah asks me if she is pitching, this usually means the other team needs to watch out, she’s going to do well. I am usually in the dugout while she’s in the field and yes their will be that moment where I have to walk behind the dugout for a moment, but not often.
Adrianne – I try to stay calm and show no emotions but my insides are doing a buck twenty. Lol. I just want her to do well and try her best.
Dave, talk about Leah the baseball player from a coaches perspective. What does she bring skill wise to your team? How does she contribute at the plate, in the field, maybe instinct wise?
Leah as a baseball plate brings a lot to a team. She has a great first step athletic ability and instincts that you cant teach. In the field Leah can play and does play every position out their including catcher and 2 favorites are the hill and short stop. At the plate again can hit in any slot to bottom, she hits the ball hard has a very aggressive swing with great hands.
Dave and Adrianne, talk about Leah the person. What characteristics impress you everyday on and off the field?
Dave and Adrianne – We feel she has a really good work ethic both on and off the field. She is good in school getting good grades and when she puts her mind to it in baseball there is nothing stopping her determination.
Dave, how do you navigate through the tricky path of coaching your daughter vs coaching a player on your team? I asked this question to every Dad/Mom that coaches their child at a high level, such as you with Leah. And for the most part, I have received really interesting responses, so I am eager to read yours.
Dave – When I am coaching, I am very more relaxed with other kids. Obviously, I try and give every kid the same amount of my attention. I do tend to get mad more easily at my own 2 kids when they make a mistake or not perform to their full potential. I hold my daughter and son to a higher standard on the field when I’m coaching. I know their abilities and just want them to try hard and perform well.
Adrianne, as a fan, what are you watching when Leah is at the plate or in the field or on the mound? What is your favorite memory or play she made in the field or at the plate?
Adrianne – I love to see her on the mound and pitch. It really impresses me to see the determination and focus within her. It’s a great feeling when you see her throw multiple strikeouts. But at the same time I’m nervous as can be. At the plate one of my most favorite memory is a couple years back playing in a championship game for All Stars and Leah came up to the plate and got a double driving in the winning walk off run. It was just a great moment and to see all the boys on the team congratulate her on the great hit that won the game.
Leah, when you look around your league or in tournaments, are you aware that you are a girl playing baseball or one of a select few that are playing or does that not enter into your mindset? Or do you see there is a game at 5:30 on your phone, have to be there at 4:30 for batting practice, get ready to go, and then just play?
It never crossed my mind that I was a girl playing baseball. I was a player and part of a team and that’s how I was treated too. A team player. I was no different than the boys.
Dave and Adrianne, do you feel that Leah is a girl playing baseball or a baseball player? And is that distinction important to you or her?
Dave – I feel Leah when playing baseball is a baseball player. She knows the game well, and plays at a high level. Its great when she’s at the plate for the first time or pitching in the first inning and we are playing where no one knows her. Then she starts pitching and you can hear other parents and coaches like wow she’s the real deal. Or when she walks up to the plate as the 4 hitter and smashes the ball. A few times this past AAU season she came up to the plate and smashed a homerun and I coached 3rd so I can hear everything and could hear the kids tell the pitcher you just gave up a homerun to a girl. Obviously makes me fee good and proud of her. In my eyes, Leah is a baseball player on a baseball team. And now a softball player on a softball team.
Leah, let’s talk stats. What are some stats about this year you can throw at me? Hitting wise, what was the coolest thing you did? Pitching wise, what stood out? How about a play in the field. What uniform number do you wear? Any significance or favorite player that wears that number?
I hit a couple of homeruns over the fence this year in AAU. In little league this year I almost pitched a complete game no hitter but I ran out of my 85 pitch count with 2 outs and one more batter to go in the last 6th inning. I had a diving stop at short stop in the field. My number is 11. When I was younger my older brother, Luke, always had 11 and that’s what I chose when I started playing baseball and it stuck with me.
Future plans for baseball – where do you see yourself playing next Spring? Do you see yourself playing long term in your teens?
As much as I’d love to continue playing baseball I feel it’s time to switch over to fast pitch softball now that little league and 50/70 AAU baseball has come to an end.
Dave and Adrianne, are there opportunities for Leah as she progresses baseball wise into her teens? Either through youth baseball leagues like CLL or AAU?
Dave – It was tough playing her last little league game especially because of Covid-19 season. And tough playing her last AAU game with Moe Joes. She made so many great friends and met great coaches along the way. It was tough for me saying by to the coaches that I have coached with for years. Leah could easily continue on the baseball diamond, she has the skills, but the fact of the matter is there is more opportunity for her to play softball now. Hopefully she has a good high school career and then college if she wants.
How has the Coventry baseball community supported her efforts on the field?
Dave and Adrianne – They have been fair. They have treated Leah like any other boy, baseball player on the team. There was no special treatment just because she was a girl. If anything Leah had to prove her efforts on the field and make known she was one of the stronger players on the team. And she certainly did that.
Dave and Adrianne, what advice would you give another parent whose daughter was interested in playing baseball through their youth baseball league’s system?
Dave and Adrianne – We would definitely encourage it and tell parents to support their daughter if she wanted to play baseball. We have enjoyed it over the years and it only made her better and ready for fast pitch competitive softball.
Leah, would you like to see more girls play baseball through the Majors division, onto the “big field” like Rice or at Paine Field? Or do you happy with others just making a decision that is comfortable for them. What I mean is, would you encourage other girls to continue playing baseball if they had the opportunity to do so?
If they wanted to yes I would tell them to go for it! I really love baseball and would play on the big field like Rice but I think I have more opportunities for college by switching to fast pitch softball now after little league. Baseball has made me a really strong player and a step ahead in softball. But I think anyone should follow what they want to do and if that’s continuing in baseball then she should.
To Leah, best wishes in your academic and athletic career. To Adrianne and Dave, thank you for being so open and honest with your answers and for encouraging Leah in whatever sport she wants to play. You are great parents to a great kid!!! This was a really fun article to write and I hope it inspires others to dream big and follow your passions in life.
Photos in this article were provided by Adrianne Lapham and were included in this article with her permission.